Edward laughed bitterly, and drew a paper from his breast. "You are the judges in this case, you, my fair son, and you, Chandos, and you, Manny, and you, Sir Hubert, and you also, my Lord Bishop. By my sovereign power I make you a court that you may deal justice upon this man, for by God's eyes I will not stir from this room until I have sifted the matter to the bottom. And first I would read you this letter. It is superscribed to Sir Aymery of Pavia, nomme Le Lombard, Chateau de Calais. Is not that your name and style, you rogue?"
"It is my name, sire; but no such letter has come to me."
"Else had your villainy never been disclosed. It is signed `Isidore de Chargny'. What says my enemy de Chargny to my trusted servant? Listen! `We could not come with the last moon, for we have not gathered sufficient strength, nor have we been able to collect the twenty thousand crowns which are your price. But with the next turn of the moon in the darkest hour we will come and you will be paid your money at the small postern gate with the rowan-bush beside it.' Well, rogue, what say you now?"
"It is a forgery!" gasped the Italian.
"I pray you that you will let me see it, sire," said Chandos. "De Chargny was my prisoner, and so many letters passed ere his ransom was paid that his script is well-known to me. Yes, yes, I will swear that this is indeed his. If my salvation were at stake I could swear it."
"If it were indeed written by de Chargny it was to dishonor me," cried Sir Aymery.
"Nay, nay!" said the young Prince. "We all know de Chargny and have fought against him. Many faults he has, a boaster and a brawler, but a braver man and one of greater heart and higher of enterprise does not ride beneath the lilies of France. Such a man would never stoop to write a letter for the sake of putting dishonor upon one of knightly rank. I, for one, will never believe it."
A gruff murmur from the others showed that they were of one mind with the Prince. The light of the torches from the walls beat upon the line of stern faces at the high table. They had sat like flint, and the Italian shrank from their inexorable eyes. He looked swiftly round, but armed men choked every entrance. The shadow of death had fallen athwart his soul.
"This letter," said the King, "was given by de Chargny to one Dom Beauvais, a priest of St. Omer, to carry into Calais. The said priest, smelling a reward, brought it to one who is my faithful servant, and so it came to me. Straightway I sent for this man that he should come to me. Meanwhile the priest has returned so that de Chargny may think that his message is indeed delivered."
"I know nothing of it," said the Italian doggedly, licking his dry lips.
A dark flush mounted to the King's forehead, and his eyes were gorged with his wrath. "No more of this, for God's dignity!" he cried. "Had we this fellow at the Tower, a few turns of the rack would tear a confession from his craven soul. But why should we need his word for his own guilt? You have seen, my lords, you have heard! How say you, fair son? Is the man guilty?"
"Sire, he is guilty."
"And you, John? And you, Walter? And you, Hubert? And you, my Lord Bishop? You are all of one mind, then. He is guilty of the betrayal of his trust. And the punishment?"
"It can only be death," said the Prince, and each in turn the others nodded their agreement.
"Aymery of Pavia, you have heard your doom," said Edward, leaning his chin upon his hand and glooming at the cowering Italian. "Step forward, you archer at the door, you with the black beard. Draw your sword! Nay, you white-faced rogue, I would not dishonor this roof-tree by your blood. It is your heels, not your head, that we want. Hack off these golden spurs of knighthood with your sword, archer! 'Twas I who gave them, and I who take them back. Ha! they fly across the hall, and with them every bond betwixt you and the worshipful order whose sign and badge they are! Now lead him out on the heath afar from the house where his carrion can best lie, and hew his scheming head from his body as a warning to all such traitors!"
The Italian, who had slipped from his chair to his knees, uttered a cry of despair, as an archer seized him by either shoulder. Writhing out of their grip, he threw himself upon the floor and clutched at the King's feet.